[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with the 3-Point Stance, looking at defensive tiers in the Big 12, the best DT recruiting programs in recent years, and Group of Five defensive linemen (non-EDGE) to keep an eye on.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]— I continue a blast through the Power Five defenses with a look at the tiers in the Big 12.
Elite: Baylor, Oklahoma State
They lost a lot of talent from last season's squad, but Baylor is still going to be at the top of the conference on defense. Tulsa transfer Jaxon Player was a huge get, and he and Siaki Ika are a nasty duo on the interior, while Gabe Hall is no slouch himself. Dillon Doyle stands out in the linebacker room, while Al Walcott and Christian Morgan are both well above average in the defensive backfield. A really solid all-around group.
Despite losing coordinator Jim Knowles and standout defensive back Tanner McCalister to Ohio State, as well as standout linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez to the NFL, the Cowboys still have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. It starts with their defensive line, which is hands-down the best in the conference. Tyler Lacy, Collin Oliver, and Brock Martin are all outstanding edge rushers, and they'll be able to send guys after the quarterback in waves. On the back end, Thomas Harper and Jason Taylor are a great safety combo.
Good but not Great: Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas
OU has the talent to be elite for sure, but we need to see them all together under the new coaching staff before we can put them up there. Jalen Redmond is the standout to watch on the defensive line, and he is as good as there is in the league. Key Lawrence plays with reckless abandon on the field and can be lined up anywhere. DJ Graham and Justin Broiles are standouts on the back end as well, but for the first time in a while, there are some questions at edge rusher.
There is a ton to like with this Kansas State defense, and it all starts with Felix Anudike-Uzomah. The devastating edge rusher is one of the best in the country and is a one-man wrecking crew. Nebraska LB transfer Will Honas is a perfect fit for the Wildcats' system - he and Daniel Greene are a really solid duo. And Ekow Boye-Dow remains one of the most under-appreciated corners in the country.
DeMarvion Overshown is arguably the best linebacker in the conference, and he's the clear leader of the Longhorns' defense. Next to him, Jaylan Ford has shown a lot of potential and could have a big season. They're solid on the back end, too with D'Shawn Jamison, Anthony Cook, and Ryan Watts all proven playmakers in the secondary. There is a lot of experience coming back to the defensive line, but results in the past with this group have been mixed.
That'll Do: Iowa State, West Virginia, Texas Tech
Iowa State's Will McDonald IV might be the best pure pass rusher in the conference and is a good bet to lead the league in sacks. Anthony Johnson Jr. is one of the more versatile players in the conference and can line up almost anywhere in the back seven. In Delaware transfer Colby Reeder and O'Rien Vance, they've got a great core of linebackers as well. There are some definite question marks at corner and interior DL, but the building blocks are there for another excellent season for the Cyclones' defense.
Charles Woods and Jasir Cox lead a West Virginia defensive unit that will be surprisingly frisky in 2022. Woods and Cox are the backbone of the secondary, while in front of them, Lance Dixon has shown that he can be a quality playmaker at the linebacker position. Dante Stills is a really disruptive player on the interior of the defensive line, but they're still lacking an impact edge rusher to take them from solid to very good.
Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Marquis Waters, and Reggie Pearson may be the best top-three at safety in the entire league, but the Red Raiders will need them all to be outstanding because there are still some issues in front of them that need to be sorted out. Tyree Wilson and Jaylon Hutchings can both be disruptive along the defensive line but need to be more consistent. And the linebacker position, there are still a lot of questions heading into fall camp.
Cross Your Fingers and Pray: Kansas, TCU
No one is surprised to see Kansas this low, although they do bring back a ton of guys from last year's squad and added a lot from the portal. The most notable of those acquisitions was Lonnie Phelps from Miami (OH), who brings an instant impact on the edge. The problem is that there isn't much around him from a pass-rushing standpoint, and the back end still has a very long way to go if they're even going to be mediocre.
The Horned Frogs are going to be in for a rough year, at least defensively, as they lost a ton of guys from a unit last year that already struggled. The one bright spot is at cornerback, where Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Noah Daniels are a great duo. However, linebacker Dee Winters might be the only above-average starter on this unit, and unfortunately for them, a lot of guys are not even on that level.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]— Edge rushers get a ton of the glory but recruiting the big men on the interior defensive line can make a huge difference. Here are the best programs at doing that (including the portal) in recent years.
1. Texas A&M
— This may seem odd but this is how much I like Walter Nolen and they landed Demarvin Leal and some other biggies as well. McKinley Jackson is the latest of the elite big men they recruited well.
— UGA just put two in the NFL Draft and have Jalen Carter so how can they be second? This is about recruiting and not development and guys like Jordan Davis were solid but not five star recruits.
— From Christian Wilkins to Dexter Lawrence to Bryan Bresee you could honestly make a case for Clemson to be No. 1 here.
— Is ‘Bama on every list? They kinda are and you can go as far back as you’d like to Daron Payne and others.
— No. 5 was a tough call, but Maason Smith and some others pushed them over the edge here.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]— And finally, here are some non-EDGE defensive linemen from the Group of Five who should be on your radar.
1. Richard Jibunor, Troy
— Jibunor plays the “Bandit” role at Troy which is a LB/End combo but to me he’s so good against the run as well I don’t have him as a pure EDGE.
2. Malik Vann, Cincinnati
— Vann is a big and strong run stuffer who can also chase the passer at times. He's back for a final season and should be among the best in the nation.
3. Zi’Yon Hill, Louisiana
— Hill is an extremely active tackler for an inside player.
4. Elijah Chatman, SMU
— Chatman is a bit sawed off but uses that natural leverage incredibly well.
5. Thomas Gore, Georgia Southern
— Gore isn’t nationally known but he should be, he’s fun to watch and has a great motor.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]